Last week owner Rich Ricci stipulated that if Vautour didn’t line up in Friday’s Gold Cup, he wouldn’t be travelling to Cheltenham at all.
Tomorrow afternoon he takes his chance in the Ryanair Chase (2.50pm) in a u-turn that has caused mayhem amongst bookmakers and punters alike.
Vautour has been installed as 8/11 favourite with Betway for the Grade One prize and will be impossible to beat if in the same form as 12 months ago.
I’ve never witnessed a more jaw-dropping display of jumping than his demolition of last year’s JLT Chase field on this very card.
However, connections have stressed that he is in nowhere near the same form as he was that day and that’s the main reason for bypassing a tilt at racing’s biggest prize.
For that reason, you would be mad to take as short as 4/6 about a horse who has obviously not blossomed.
Don’t get me wrong, a 75% fit Vautour would probably be good enough to win this, it’s just not a risk I’m prepared to take.
Vautour isn’t the only horse to swerve the Gold Cup as the Gigginstown-owned pair Road To Riches and Valseur Lido both take their chance this afternoon instead.
With the ground continuing to dry out rapidly, I’m a little concerned that the trip may be on the sharp side for both, although they bring genuine top class form to the table.
Al Ferof, a former winner of this race, is now 11 years old and it would be a surprise if he could roll back the years.
I’m prepared to take an each-way chance on two at monster prices who could easily outrun their odds.
VILLAGE VIC has been hugely progressive this campaign, winning all four handicap starts with relative ease.
Both of those last two wins have come at Cheltenham and connections always felt he may turn out to be a Grade One horse.
He’s still a long way off that, but he’s progressing at a rate of knots and is well worth an each-way bet at 25/1 with Paddy Power.
My other selection is even more left-field but I’m convinced that GILGAMBOA can get involved in the finish if he is not run off his feet too early.
Enda Bolger’s eight-year-old was beaten out of sight on bad ground at Leopardstown last month in the Irish Gold Cup, but a return to better ground, and this trip, will help.
He was in the process of running really well in the Supreme Novices' here a couple of years ago before making a shuddering mistake and is too big each-way at 33/1.
Another option is to support both of these on the Sporting Index race index.
Village Vic e/w 2.50pm Cheltenham
Gilgamboa e/w 2.50pm Cheltenham